Agricultural Virtual Water Flows in the USA

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Megan Konar, Qian Dang and Xiaowen Lin, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States
Global virtual water trade is an important research topic that has yielded several interesting insights. In this paper, we present a comprehensive assessment of virtual water flows within the USA, a country with global importance as a major agricultural producer and trade power. This is the first study of domestic virtual water flows based upon intra-national food flow data and it provides insight into how the properties of virtual water flows vary across scales. We find that both the value and volume of food flows within the USA are roughly equivalent to half that of international flows. However, USA food flows are more water intensive than international food trade, due to the higher fraction of water-intensive meat trade within the USA. The USA virtual water flow network is more social, homogeneous, and equitable than the global virtual water trade network, although it is still not perfectly equitable. Importantly, a core group of U.S. States is central to the network structure, indicating that both domestic and international trade may be vulnerable to disruptive climate or economic shocks in these U.S. States.